Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · On the Road in India
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On the Road in India

Robert Downes - November 29th, 2007
A fruit bat the size of a cocker spaniel wheels overhead in broad daylight and flaps off into a grove of coconut palms on lazy wings. At my feet are rice fields stretching to the horizon and the canals of the Kerala Backwaters in southern India, also known as the Country of God.
After three weeks of kicking around southern India as one of four backpackers, I’ve gotten used to the place. It would be a stretch to say that India has “cast its spell” on me, but I have learned to see less of the trash and hassles, and to focus more on the colorful people, towering Hindu temples and lush scenery in this land of one billion souls.

So, here are some impressions of India from your humble correspondent after 1,000 miles on the road:

Did you know that many Hindus celebrate Christmas? It’s because they have 333 million gods in their religion, so it’s a cinch to add Jesus, Virgin Mary and Santa Claus to the mix as an excuse to celebrate.

Part of the fun of traveling rough is we ride the third-class sleeper trains. There are six hard bunks piled three-high in a compartment the size of a mini-van. You jam in all your gear and sit on a bunk, sharing with the Indian family across from you.
Also a hoot are the dusty, junky, clunker buses that seem to be held together with chicken wire. Most of these were considered wrecks 20 years ago when cities in Europe passed on their cast-offs to India. On yesterday’s ride, the driver’s spring-popping seat was held together with twine. He stayed alert by chewing a mild narcotic known as khat, mixed with fresh tobacco leaf. A bonus was the DVD film in the Hindi language, screeching at top volume through blown speakers on the bus’ TV.
The worst way to travel is by private car, doing the Dance of Death on the Highways of Hell. We whipsaw in and out of traffic, passing straight into the path of oncoming cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes, with all doing the same. This means thousands of near-misses on every drive. My sphincter is tied in a knot and my toes are permanently curled in fright...

You’ve got friends everywhere in India. Walk down any street and you’ll hear these words, repeated in a mournful monotone:
“Hullo. Hullo my fren’. Come see my shop, my fren’. Jus’ loook, no buy. Jus’ loook, my fren’.”
Indian hustlers all believe that tourists are automatic shopping robots. They’re right of course, but one can only buy so many statues of Shiva or ankle bracelets. My only consolation is knowing that it’s far worse in the “tourist bubble” of Rajasthan in northern India, which is said to be a perfect hell of hassle.

Strange, but true: 85% of all marriages in India are still arranged by your parents.
While having dinner at a local guide’s home in Mysore, he proudly told us of his daughter’s recent marriage. It seems that he had heard through the grapevine that a rich man’s son needed a wife. He put his daughter forward -- a lovely girl -- and she was interviewed by the young man’s parents. Then, he and his wife met the prospective groom.
Finally, the young couple got to meet -- IN PERSON! -- in his dining room, with both sets of parents looking on. They even got to talk for an hour alone to see if they were a match.
Then, with a flourish of his hand, the young man said, “I’ll take her!” and the deal was done.
Ah, but first, the girl’s father had to come up with 800,000 rupees as a dowry -- that’s $20,000 U.S. to us, but more like half a million bucks to a lower middle class family in India. No problem -- he simply called his relatives all over the world and told them of the golden opportunity his daughter had to marry a rich man’s son. The money flowed in.
The wedding included 4,500 guests -- not unusual in India where even middlin’ folks invite 2,000 or so. The newlyweds went to live at his mamma and daddy’s house, as all Indian couples do, to get to know the perfect stranger they’ll be spending the rest of their lives with.
As for the dowry, the groom’s parents keep the cash, and the bride keeps the gold jewelry “just in case” things don’t work out. A married woman who doesn’t wear heaps of gold jewelry is laughed at on the streets of India.

But what of the wedding night, you say? No worries -- all Hindu temples are carved with at least some of the 184 sexual positions of the Kama Sutra (literally, “sex techniques”). This is so all teenage boys and girls will know how to enjoy their love-lives when they marry.
The Hindus don’t have our uptight Calvinist/Puritan tradition which teaches that sex is “dirty.” They consider sex to be a gift from God and want to make sure their kids are doing it right. Imagine this graphic sex guide on the walls of your local church.
On the other hand, the people of India are incredible prudes: both dating and premarital sex are unheard of, and even kissing is taboo in the syrupy, romantic films of Bollywood. How this squares with the kinky temple carvings, I haven’t a clue.

It’s great to be able to watch Jay Leno and The Tonight Show on TV in India, providing you don’t mind seeing the shows from 2003. I caught an interview with Britney Spears in which she had just broken up with Justin Timberlake and was on top of the world.

You never know when you’ll meet an elephant in India. There are many out in the country, but I’ve also met several on the city streets and inside a Hindu temple that was the size of a baseball stadium.
I’ve been thrilled each time -- actually, more like electrified -- these huge creatures have eyes which shine with intelligence and they’re as friendly as pet dogs.
In downtown Pondicherry, one gave me a blessing outside the Temple of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good luck. His body was painted with sacred markings and the smell of incense filled the air. I placed a rupee coin in the nostrils of its rough, hairy trunk and bowed as it stroked my head for good luck.
That blessing is working so far, except for my tendency to explode from both ends at times, if you know what I mean. Our band of backpackers all came down with cases of projectile vomiting from different bugs than we’re used to in the food and water. It’s not much fun being sick, combined with the constant heat, crowds, traffic, pollution, grime and hassles of traveling in India, I assure you.

Speaking of which, if you want to get the people of India in stitches (or gagging) at a restaurant, then go ahead and eat your food with your left hand. This of course, is the “bathroom hand” in Asia, where they swab the “lower deck” with a splash of water and scrub with their fingers.
Many people eat with their fingers here, which involves rolling a gooey ball of rice, dripping with curry sauce and chunks of fish, chicken or eggplant, and popping it in your mouth. ALWAYS with the right hand, of course.

After two-and-a-half months of constant travel on my way around the world, I’m looking forward to kicking back in Goa, the beach party capital of this half of the planet, where thousands of kids from Europe and Australia flock for all-night raves, rubbing elbows with their jet-setting parents. Will let you know how it goes... Namaste.
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